While most WPS teams have found their footing in the league, one team that has been tumbling a lot is the Sky Blue FC. With no head-turning star players on the roster and a string of losses, it was apparent that Sky Blue FC was taking a nose dive fast and furious.
So much so that even the firing of head coach Ian Summers and the appointment of Kelly Lindsey as the new interim head coach did not garner any attention to the team.
And then May 31, 2009 happened. The second place Boston Breakers team, with star power and talent to go with it, was expected to win. A newly energized Sky Blue team took to the field with one mantra—play as a team.
Sky Blue players moved fast and out-hustled Breakers players, snatching the ball with interceptions and tackles. Man to man marking was outstanding. A normally solid right back defender, Breakers Heather Mitts struggled to keep up with Natasha Kai. A well timed run by Kai in the fourth minute resulted in the ball in the back of the net.
Sky Blue was on the top within the first five minutes of the game and never let up. Barring the goal keeper Jenni Branam’s mistake that yielded a goal to Kelly Smith of Breakers, Sky Blue played 90 minutes of solid soccer.
Breakers player Smith was injured a few minutes before the half-time but that was no excuse for their 1-2 loss to the Sky Blue. Smith earned an easy goal due to Sky Blue keeper’s mistake but hardly got any shots off during the 43 minutes she played. Sky Blue defenders were physical and aggressive in guarding the fort and defending the slim margin for nearly 60 minutes.
Amy Rodriguez looked like she was getting into the game, but her benching during the second half probably hurt the Breakers. Without Rodriguez and Smith in the second half, Breakers played a bland brand of soccer.
WPS teams are catching up to the tendencies of Breakers Mitts and Alex Scott to push up in support of the offense. Teams like Sky Blue with speedy players like Heather O’Reilly on the roster will punish with quick counters.
Despite the win Sky Blue FC remains in the last place in the league standings. There is no need for the fans to despair. With plenty of games lined up, Sky Blue like any other team has a chance to move up and fight for a berth in the playoffs. The sky, soccer fans, is not falling.
Photo Credit: WPS